Record Release Policy
Washington College abides by federal law, specifically the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (“FERPA”) – also known as the “Buckley Amendment” – which restricts the release of a student’s educational records to others.
The law says that once students begin postsecondary study, the College can only release education records to parents or guardians if the student consents to that release in writing or if the parent or guardian provides us with proof of the student’s financial dependency (usually substantiated by a certified copy of the most recent Federal Income Tax Form).
FERPA also says that the College can share a student’s “directory information” – which includes home address, full-time student status, expected graduation date, etc. – with third-party organizations upon request. This is usually seen as a benefit to students. For example, we can verify that you are a current student or a graduate to potential employers or companies offering you a student discount, or we can share your honors and accomplishments with your hometown newspaper and other media outlets.
Students’ Rights Under FERPA
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as amended (“FERPA”) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. These rights include:
(1) The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days of the day the College receives a request for access.
A student should submit to the College Registrar a written request that identifies the record(s) the student wishes to inspect. The College Registrar will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the Registrar’s Office, the College Registrar shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
Waivers: When you wish a member of the faculty or administration to write a letter of recommendation to graduate schools or possible employers, you may be asked to sign a waiver to assure the confidentiality of the recommender’s observations. If this occurs, it means only that we need to be able to say candidly what we think about your capabilities and potential. Very simply, such candor is in the long-range best interest of all Washington College students and the College.
If you use the services of our Career Development office in an effort to secure employment or access to graduate school, waivers are likely to be requested regarding your transcript, your resume, letters of recommendation on file with the office, and any other data of natural interest to interviewers.
Waivers may be signed only for the specific purposes of application for admission, candidacy for honorary recognition (including merit-related financial aid), and application for employment. Waivers will not be required and you may be told, at your request, the names of those supplying references. You may revoke a waiver, in writing, for future actions but not for letters or recommendations already in your education records.
Records not open to student review: In accordance with federal regulations, students do not have the right to review the following records:
- financial records of the student’s parent;
- letters and statements of recommendation for which the student has waived his or her right of access, or which were placed in the file before January 1, 1970;
- records connected with an application to attend Washington College if that application was denied;
- education records containing information about more than one student, in which case Washington College will permit access only to that part of the record which pertains to the inquiring student; or
- records which are excluded from the FERPA definition of education records.
Right of Washington College to refuse to provide copies: Washington College reserves the right to deny copies if the transcripts or other records are not required to be made available under FERPA, if the student has an overdue financial obligation to the College, or if there is an unresolved disciplinary action against the student.
Fee for copies of records: When you make a written request for your own official academic transcript there is no charge, except for delivery fees beyond first-class U.S. postage. In order to obtain copies of other parts of your own education records the fee is the cost normally charged students for use of such College equipment. The fee for all other copies of education records, whether authorized by student consent or otherwise allowed by the Act, is $.50 per page to be borne by the requester. The fee for third-party organizations seeking directory information about College students (except when invoking the Solomon Amendment) is $75.00 per request plus $.50 per page.
(2) The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA.
A student who wishes to ask the College to amend a record should write the College Registrar (or other College official who maintains the records in question, if the records are not maintained by the Registrar’s Office), clearly identify the part of the record the student wants changed, and specify why it should be changed.
If the College decides not to amend the record as requested, it will notify the student in writing of the decision and the student’s right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.
Destruction of Records: No clause in FERPA requires the continued maintenance of any student record for any particular length of time. However, if you have requested access to your education record, FERPA does compel Washington College not to destroy any such existing records before the custodian has granted you access.
(3) The right to provide written consent before the College discloses personally identifiable information (PII) from the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.
The College discloses education records without a student’s prior written consent under the FERPA exception for disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is a person employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom the College has contracted to provide a service instead of using College employees or officials (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Visitors and Governors; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.
A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities for the College.
Upon request, the College discloses education records without consent to officials of another school in which a student seeks or intends to enroll. Washington College will honor such requests.
Consent for the disclosure of a student’s physical or electronic education records must be in writing, signed and dated by the student, specifying the records to be released, the reasons for such release, and to whom the records are to be disclosed. Students seeking a copy of their official transcript or a letter certifying their enrollment should use the Transcript Request Form or the Enrollment Verification Request form. Students who appear personally to request access to view or copy their education records may be asked to produce a form of photographic ID to prove their identity. Parents or guardians seeking to view or copy their student’s physical education records, even when the student has pre-authorized release of such records, are nonetheless required to obtain their student’s specific signed authorization to release exactly those records that they wish to view or for which copies are being sought.
Record of disclosures: Except where not required under FERPA regulations (such as for disclosures to parents, disclosures of directory information, and disclosures pursuant to court order under the USA PATRIOT Act), Washington College will inform all third parties (anyone outside the College) to whom personal information from a student’s education record is released that no further release of such information is authorized without written consent of the student. Washington College will maintain a record of third parties who have requested or obtained access to a student’s education records (not including individuals outside the College who are acting as “school officials,” parties seeking directory information, parties having student consent, parents, circumstances involving certain grand jury subpoenas, and disclosures pursuant to court order under the USA PATRIOT Act), indicating the legitimate interest that each such person or entity has in obtaining this information. This record of access, to be kept in a journal logging such disclosures, is available only to the student and the custodian(s) of the record (including other employees of the Registrar’s Office who routinely process such disclosure requests).
(4) The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with the requirements of FERPA.
Students are encouraged to discuss their concerns with the College Registrar (as the College’s official custodian of records). Should the student decide to file a complaint against Washington College for a potential violation of their rights under FERPA, the name and address of the Office that administers FERPA is:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-5901
Recent Changes to FERPA
As of January 3, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education’s FERPA regulations expand the circumstances under which your education records and personally identifiable information (PII) contained in such records – including your Social Security number, grades, or other private information – may be accessed without your consent.
First, the U.S. Comptroller General, the U.S. Attorney General, the U.S. Secretary of Education, or state and local education authorities (“Federal and State Authorities”) may allow access to your records and PII without your consent to any third party designated by a Federal or State Authority to evaluate a federal- or state-supported education program. The evaluation may relate to any program that is “principally engaged in the provision of education,” such as early childhood education and job training, as well as any program that is administered by an education agency or institution.
Second, Federal and State Authorities may allow access to your education records and PII without your consent to researchers performing certain types of studies, in certain cases even when the College objects to or does not request such research. Federal and State Authorities must obtain certain use-restrictions and data security promises from the entities that they authorize to receive your PII, but the Authorities need not maintain direct control over such entities.
In addition, in connection with Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, State Authorities may collect, compile, permanently retain, and share without your consent PII from your education records, and they may track your participation in education and other programs by linking such PII to other personal information about you that they obtain from other Federal and State data sources, including workforce development, unemployment insurance, child welfare, juvenile justice, military service, and migrant student records systems.
How to Specify Your Privacy Preferences at WC
As a new Washington College student you are required to login to WebAdvisor no later than one week prior to the start of your first semester to review both the “Allow Release of my Education Records (FERPA)” form and the “Directory Information Declaration.” On the first form, you must decide whether you will permit us to discuss any aspect of your education record with your parent or guardian when they contact us. On the second form, you must decide whether you wish to restrict your directory information from being shared with third-party organizations. Either decision may be revoked at any time by filing a written request in the Registrar’s Office.
Directions for completing the Allow Release of my Educational Records (FERPA) Form
- Login to WebAdvisor using your email ID and password.
- Click on the Students menu option (the maroon button to the right).
- Under the Information Forms heading, choose “Allow Release of my Education Records (FERPA).”
- Read the form in its entirety.
If you choose to authorize release of your education records to both of your parents or guardians, click the check box and then click [SUBMIT]. By submitting this authorization, you are allowing the College to share and discuss any information about your education record (e.g., your classes, major, midterm and final grades, progress toward graduation, financial aid, tuition bill, etc.) with a parent or guardian who contacts us. If your parent/guardian claims you as a dependent on their Federal Income Tax Form, you should select this option.
Note: If you wish to authorize only one parent or guardian to inquire about your education records, please visit the Registrar’s Office to file this request in writing. We can accommodate virtually all such privacy requests.
If you choose not to authorize Washington College to share or discuss any part of your education record with both of your parents or guardians, do not click the check box. Simply exit using the back button. This is the College’s default privacy setting for incoming students.
Authorizing release of your education records to your parent/guardian does not automatically give them access to your WebAdvisor account. To create a WebAdvisor account for your parent or guardian, login to WebAdvisor and under Miscellaneous Options choose “Add/Change Parental Access.” The parent or guardian whose email address you provide will receive an email with login information.
Directions for completing the Directory Information Declaration
- Login to WebAdvisor using your email ID and password.
- Click on the Students menu option (the maroon button to the right).
- Under the Information Forms heading, choose “Directory Information Declaration.”
- Read the form in its entirety, especially the list of items considered directory information by the College.
If you authorize release of only your directory information to third-party persons or organizations, do not click the box. Simply exit the screen using the back button. This is the College’s default privacy setting.
If you choose not to authorize Washington College to release your directory information to third-party persons or organizations, click the check box and then click [SUBMIT]. This will change your privacy setting.
Changing Your Privacy Selections
If at any time during your Washington College career you wish to change your privacy settings, you may do so by contacting the Registrar’s Office in writing and specifying the changes you would like to make. Once your preferences are set on WebAdvisor using the steps above, these settings cannot be changed online. Please contact the Registrar’s Office in writing (providing a physical, pen-to-paper signature) to make any change to these settings.
This section explains some of the terms used on this page in relationship to FERPA and Washington College’s own privacy policies.
Directory Information – Information contained in an education record of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. The College defines the following data as “directory information”:
- Student name
- Campus box number
- Campus phone number
- Hometown and state
- Permanent address
- Email address
- Class year
- Dates of attendance
- Full- or part-time status
- Graduation dates
- Expected graduation dates
- Previous institutions attended
- Cell phone number
- Home phone number
- Major(s) and minor(s)
- Concentration(s) or specialization(s)
- Awards and honors
- Honor Societies
- Participation in officially recognized sports
Although the College considers the above data “directory information” and will disclose it upon request from a third party, it makes every effort to restrict access to its official campus directory to only those with a Legitimate Educational Interest (LEI, defined below) and does not honor blanket requests from third parties for directory information pertaining to its entire student population except those related to the Solomon Amendment.
- Education Records – Any physical or electronic record maintained by Washington College which is directly related to a student, or that is linked or linkable to the student by means of his or her personally identifiable information (PII, defined below), with the following exceptions:
- Records made by College employees which are kept in the sole possession of the maker, are used only as a personal memory aid, and are not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record;
- Employment records unless the employment is contingent on the fact that the employee is a student;
- Records maintained by the Office of Public Safety solely for law enforcement purposes and not accessible to other offices of the College;
- Records made, maintained and used by Health and Counseling Services professionals or paraprofessionals (e.g., a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor) only in connection with treatment of the student, and disclosed only to individuals providing the treatment but not otherwise available to other offices of the College; such health records may be reviewed by a physician or other appropriate professional of the student’s choice as per the tenets of HIPAA;
- Alumni records containing information about individuals after they are no longer students and which do not relate to the individuals as students; and
- Records of former students who are now deceased.
- Legitimate Educational Interest (LEI) – The demonstrated “need to know” by those officials of an institution who act in the student’s educational interest. A school official has a legitimate educational interest when the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her responsibility on behalf of the university, such as when the official is performing a task that is specific in his or her job description or by a contract agreement or other official appointment; performing a task related to a student’s education; performing a task related to the discipline of a student; or providing a service or benefit relating to the student or student’s family, such as health care, counseling, job placement, or financial aid.
- Personally Identifiable Information (PII) – Data or information which includes, but is not limited to:
- The student’s name;
- The name of the student’s parent or other family members;
- The address of the student or student’s family;
- A personal identifier, such as the student’s Social Security number, student number, or biometric record;
- Other indirect identifiers, such as the student’s date of birth, place of birth, and mother’s maiden name;
- Other information that, alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a specific student that would allow a reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty; or
- Information requested by a person who the College reasonably believes knows the identity of the student to whom the education record relates.
- School official – A person employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position, including Public Safety and Health and Counseling Services staff, who act in the student’s educational interest within the limitations of their “need to know”; volunteers or contractors (individuals or entities) performing a service or function for which the College would otherwise use its employees, and who are under the direct control of the College with respect to the use and maintenance of personally identifiable information from education records (e.g., an attorney, auditor, or vendor; the Maryland Higher Education Commission; the National Student Clearinghouse); individuals serving on the Board of Visitors and Governors; and students conducting College business (e.g., serving on official committees, working for the College, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks).
- Student – Any person who attends or has attended the College, as determined by matriculation and enrollment by the first date of an academic term.